Cooking Light and I are old friends. You may recall that I’ve mentioned them here from time to time. Actually, we are old, estranged friends. It has been years since I’ve picked up an issue of Cooking Light. But some of the recipes that Cooking Light introduced me to have earned seniority. In my kitchen, where the turnover rate of recipes is pretty high, miso glazed salmon, cider roasted pork, and cinnamon sugar cookies all have made return appearances. And they all came from the pages of the magazine.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that Mark Scarbrough, with whom I exchange pithy Tweets, was half of the dynamic duo of Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough who are long time collaborators with Cooking Light. I was having one of those “when worlds collide” moments. Here I was tweeting with someone whose recipes I had made in my own home. And through those tweets, Bruce and Mark reunited me with Cooking Light.
See, they were kind enough to offer me the opportunity to receive their newest cookbook, which just so happens to be a collaboration with Cooking Light focused on smart, fast home cooking. Clearly, they know I am their target audience. As soon as I got the book in my hands, I started reading. Because in addition to over 200 recipes, The Complete Quick Cook is full of tips, tricks, and strategies to make cooking less intimidating. I may have been doing my thing in the kitchen for a few years now but there is always something I can learn to cook smarter. Because really, when you’re trying to balance all of life’s craziness, it pays to take the smarter approach.
And to top it all off with a pretty bow, I was given the opportunity to interview Bruce and Mark about The Complete Quick Cook. How could I possibly say no to that? I tried my best to at least sound like I knew what I was talking about, despite my track record of making a hot mess of whatever it is that I’m working on in the kitchen. Here’s how our conversation went.
Bruce and Mark, you have written over 20 cookbooks, focusing on things such as Cooking For Two, Pizza, Grilling, Ham, and Goat. What made you decide to tackle the challenge of smart, fast home cooking?
Every year, there’s a new study about how people have less time, fewer minutes, more things to do. It’s a cliché—but true, nonetheless. So while we’re still all for the seven-hour roasted goat leg or the two-day ham brine, cooking quickly remains the real way most of the people we know want to cook. Indeed, need to cook. To get a healthy dinner on the table in under thirty minutes: that’s the challenge of an average Wednesday night.
You’ve been collaborating with Cooking Light for some time and developing recipes for their magazine. How has that influenced the cooking that you do in your own home?
Cooking Light’s philosophy fits exactly with ours: “healthy” and “tasty” in balance. And a balance without any big no-no’s. It doesn’t make sense to make some ingredients forbidden. You know you’ll eat them soon enough if you do! Instead, it’s far better to see the sensible ways we can even bring indulgences to our tables.
The book is full of tips and secrets to help make cooking less intimidating. If you had to choose just one tip that people should remember to be a smarter cook, what would that be?
The one who cooks the meal is not the one who cleans up afterwards! Well, okay, more seriously, there’s a lot in the book for how to “mise” your kitchen: put the wooden spoon and spices near the stove, keep the counters clean, keep a list on a marker board or your smart phone of pantry items you need to restock, etc. Many people know about making a “mise en place” for the meal they’ll cook: getting out the ingredients and prepping them before they start to cook. But it’s just as important to organize and prep your kitchen itself. That’s a real secret to quick cooking.
As someone who constantly uses cookbooks and magazines, all I know is I open them up and the recipes are magically there waiting for me to bring them to life. Can you describe the process of developing the recipes so that they would fit into a busy cook’s available time and embody the Cooking Light philosophy?
Admittedly, our process is pretty complicated. In truth, developed recipes for Cooking Light are a collaboration among editors, publishers, the Cooking Light test kitchen, the many tasters on staff, and us two food writers, who actually have fairly different tastes between us. That collaboration is a tricky dance, but it also assures that recipes remain accessible and that the basic flavors don’t get lost in a search for newish flare. I’d say that the best thing a quick cook can do is to treat meals at home as collaborations, too: keep your family’s tastes in mind, listen to how they respond to dishes, have your kids or spouse help out in the kitchen. Working together can be a key to working quickly. And if you get your family and loved ones involved in the meal, they’re much less likely to complain!
I bestowed comfort food status to the Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce the first time I made it. Is there a story behind this recipe?
Recipes are like your kids—they’ve all got stories. In our world, Mark loves dairy, thinks butter is a beverage; Bruce is rather indifferent to it, all things considered. He’d rather have olive oil any day. So recipes like this come about because Mark, the writer, is just craving something creamy and wonderful. Bruce, the chef, then comes up with a way to keep that creaminess in check, so that supper’s satisfying without being a belt-buster. Now that’s real comfort food!
As stated above, I have fallen in love with Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce. Although I must admit that I reversed engineered it to be a little less Cooking Light friendly by thickening the sauce with some kneaded butter. Do those kneaded buttery calories get voided if I add some roasted chicken breast and baby peas to the pasta?
Um, we hate to tell you this, but a food calorie is a food calorie. It doesn’t get nixed from anything in the pan or skillet. That said, some roast chicken from a rotisseried bird would be a fine addition to this recipe. In fact, you’re doing what we dream every reader does: morph our recipes into something that suits your table. We hope to provide the inspiration—where you take it from there is your own creative journey. And a sure sign of a better meal ahead for you and those you love!
Ok, so maybe Bruce and Mark didn’t absolve my additional kneaded butter calories in the Farfalle, but I love their philosophy and they definitely gave me a new recipe to add to my seniority list. I can’t wait to see how else The Complete Quick Cook is going to make an impact at our table.
Be sure to come back on Wednesday when I will introduce you to Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce. You really don’t want to miss this. And you can follow along with the adventures of Bruce and Mark at their blog. Want some of those pithy tweets in your Twitter feed? Check out @markscarbrough and @bruceweinstein on the Twittah.